UK urged to increase night flights to speed up economic recovery

The British Shippers’ Council (BSC) has urged the UK government to expand the number of night flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports as the UK economy continues to recover and freight volumes grow again.

The BSC, part of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said that the move was necessary ‘to remain competitive in the global marketplace.’ The advice came after its recent meeting with the Department for Transport about its second stage consultation on night flying restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, which sets out proposals for the period from October 2014, to October 2017.

A BSC statement said: ‘Not to do so would negatively affect use of the airports and damage the quality of the UK international supply chain.’

The statement added: ‘Unless there is flexibility this is likely to restrict potential air freight shipments, undermining the reliability and predictability of UK supply chains faced with fierce competition from continental competitors.

‘Demand is driven by customers from across the UK economy, for example in pharmaceuticals and advanced manufacturing, and these companies need to move their time-critical or high-value goods quickly and efficiently.

Commenting on behalf of the British Shippers’ Council, the FTA’s Chris MacRae said: ‘Night flights are an essential component in maintaining the UK’s international economic competitiveness. Operators don’t provide them by choice but driven by shipper demand, itself driven by end customer requirements. It is good news that the current regime is not proposed to be further restricted, but at the same time as the economy grows some easing of restrictions would be appropriate.’

The outlook for the British economy has improved by more than any other developed nation over the last six months, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in November. The international watchdog said that it expected the UK economy to grow by 2.4 percent in 2014, compared to 1.4 percent in 2013.

Travelodge opens its third hotel at Gatwick Airport

Travelodge, a hotel chain in the UK, has opened its third hotel at London Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, on January 29, 2014.

Crawley Travelodge is a 110-room new build property with six floors. It represents a GBP7 million investment and has created 20 new jobs within the local community. The hotel is located on Pegler Way in Crawley, which is less than five miles from Gatwick Airport.

The hotel is claimed to have a warm and cosy ambiance, and to help customers to benefit from a good night’s sleep, Travelodge worked with a chromotherapy expert and has introduced a sleep inducing colour palette to the room’s decor. The feature wall has been painted a tranquil blue, which Travelodge says makes one feel relaxed and sleepy.

The new room also features a stylish white contemporary en-suite bathroom with a power shower, stain & water resistant carpet in a dark shade of blue, a larger desk area, new reading lights and a phone charging socket built into the bed frame. The room also includes artwork above the bed in an abstract design featuring relaxing sparkles and shades of blue, which is also said to be restful for the eyes.

Andrina Wooler, Crawley hotel manager said: ‘I am so thrilled to be managing Crawley’s first Travelodge hotel in such a prime location. There is a growing demand for good quality, low cost accommodation in the area, as getting value for money is hugely important for consumers in today’s market. As a result, we are ideally placed to be the smart choice for business and leisure travellers.

‘By attracting new visitors to the area, this hotel will annually boost the local economy by GBP1.2 million, as our research shows the average Travelodge customer will spend on average GBP36 in local businesses during their stay.

‘The hotel has got off to a flying start and there is no doubt that our new room design has had a great impact on sales. Customer feedback has been phenomenal, especially in relation to the Travelodge Dreamer Bed and the overall enhanced new experience.’

Since 2007, Travelodge has added more than 500 rooms near Gatwick Airport and has a total of 602 rooms today. Travelodge research shows the average customer will spend £36 a day in local shops, restaurants and bars during their stay. If so, the three hotels could boost the local economy by as much as £9.5 million per annum.

bmi regional doubles capacity on its Aberdeen – Oslo service

UK-based airline, bmi regional, has said that it has doubled its capacity on the Aberdeen to Oslo route as the airline seeks to provide better connectivity for the oil and gas industry on both sides of the North Sea.

The airline’s scheduled service was launched in October last year as a single daily flight, Sunday to Friday. Effective from February 3, bmi regional will operate two flights a day, Monday to Thursday, with single daily flights continuing on Sundays and Fridays.

The addition of morning and evening flights four days a week will enable business travellers to spend a day in either city and will also increase inbound leisure traffic to the North-east of Scotland, the airport said.

Cathal O’Connell, chief executive of bmi regional, said: ‘When we launched our Aberdeen to Oslo service last year we committed to increasing the frequency if demand required it and we are now delivering on that promise.

The support of businesses at both ends of the route has exceeded our expectations and we are now responding to feedback from our customers by delivering additional frequency. Increasing the number of flights to two a day demonstrates our commitment to providing connections that support the strong economy in the North-east of Scotland, the oil and gas industry, and businesses in Scotland and Norway.’

The Scandinavian oil and gas industry is a key market for bmi regional, as it launched a direct service from Aberdeen to Kristiansund in August 2013, and started flights between Stavanger and Harstad/Narvik (Evenes) and Tromso in the north of Norway, Kristiansund and Gothenburg in Sweden, in January.

Claimed to be the UK’s most punctual airline for the past eight years, bmi regional operates 300 flights a week to 21 destinations across the UK and Europe.

BA increases London flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow, expands Edinburgh lounge

British Airways (BA) is looking to increase flights to London City airport from Scotland, The Scotsman has reported.

Starting this summer, the airline will increase services from Edinburgh from eight to ten a day, with more expected from Glasgow. The move comes after rival, CityJet, cut the route, and BA became the largest airline at the Docklands airport.

BA executive chairman, Keith Williams, said the expansion would increase BA’s daily Scotland-London flights to 57. One in 25 of the airline’s total London passengers are on Scottish routes.

Mr Williams said: ‘London City is the business area of London and has become quite a big operation, where we are now the largest player. If the demand is there, we will equally fly more from Glasgow too.’

BA also flies from Aberdeen to London City, from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Gatwick, and from all three Scottish airports to Heathrow.

Mr Williams was in Scotland to mark completion of work on the 500th Airbus aircraft at its maintenance base at Glasgow Airport, and to open a new GBP1.5 million executive lounge at Edinburgh Airport, the report added.

The base is operating at full capacity and the hangar looks after 40 percent of the BA fleet. Each of the 112 aircraft are brought in for major servicing every 18 months, which involves up to 12 days’ work, including stripping down the cabin, engines and other parts.

Mr Williams said: ‘It is testimony to the expertise, professionalism and dedication of everyone at British Airways Maintenance Glasgow (BAMG) – past and present – that, after almost half a century, they continue to play a vital role in engineering at British Airways.

‘The safety, security and technical integrity of our aircraft are of paramount importance to British Airways, and the engineering function, including the work carried out at BAMG, is central to that principle.’

Tom Williams, Airbus’s vice president, programmes, said: ‘The 500th of British Airways’ fleet of single-aisle Airbus aircraft is a significant milestone and demonstrates the important role of the A320 family as the backbone of the company’s short and medium range fleet.’

Edinburgh Airport chief executive, Gordon Dewar, said: ‘The opening of this fantastic new lounge marks the single biggest investment by British Airways in a Scottish airport.’

BA’s Edinburgh lounge has been almost doubled in size to 730 square metres. The lounge was designed by Glasgow-based Graven Images and features artworks from Edinburgh School of Art.

Flybe plans major new base at Birmingham Airport

British low-cost regional airline, Flybe, is looking to expand at Birmingham Airport, creating 50 jobs and offering seven new passenger routes.

The airline will fly to Alicante, Bordeaux, Cologne, Florence, Palma, Porto and Toulouse, the BBC said in a report. Flybe will now operate 32 summer routes to and from Birmingham, up to a maximum of 375 return flights each week, totalling 1.7m seats.

In November, the Exeter-based airline revealed plans to close six bases, including Aberdeen, Guernsey, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey and Newcastle, and to axe 500 jobs.

Announcing the closure plans last year, Flybe chief executive, Saad Hammad, said that redundancies were ‘necessary to secure a long-term future for Flybe’. A former EasyJet executive, Hammad was named Flybes new chief in July.

Balpa, the British Airline Pilots Association, said that it welcomed the news of expansion in Birmingham, ‘especially given recent downsizing announcements elsewhere’.

‘Our efforts continue to reduce the impact of redundancies and job cuts on individuals as the airline restructures,’ it added.

Three of the aircraft on the new Birmingham schedule will be transferred from other regional hubs, the company said.

Paul Simmons, from Flybe, said that the decision to base extra aircraft at the airport was ‘a vote of confidence in the local economy’.

William Pearson, from Birmingham Airport, said: ‘Not only will this growth make Birmingham Airport Flybe’s biggest ever base, it will also become our largest carrier, flying up to 400,000 extra passengers a year and serving nearly two million travellers in total.’

Flybe, which is in the middle of a restructuring, said separately that it was working to cut the costs of grounding some of its fleet and now expects fewer job losses than previously announced.

Under its ‘Immediate Actions’ plan announced in November, the airline proposed 500 redundancies and estimated one-time charges of GBP14m in the current year, plus a further £27m in 2014-15 for grounding aircraft. The company is now expecting total job losses to be around 450.

Ryanair commences allocated seating service

European low fares airline, Ryanair, has said that starting February 1, all of its flights will operate with allocated seats, allowing all customers to choose their preferred seats in advance.

The move is part of the customer service improvement initiatives recently undertaken by the airline. With the launch of allocated seating, Ryanair customers can now select their preferred allocated seat either when booking or when checking-in online, with three seat options available:

Premium seats – Rows 1-5, 16, 17 & 32,33 – giving customers priority boarding, extra legroom and/or faster exit, all for a fee of €10/£10 (the same fee as Ryanair’s current reserved seat fee).

Standard seats – Rows 6-15 & 18-31 – where customers can pre-select their preferred window or aisle seats or ensure that they sit together, for a fee of €5/£5, with priority boarding added for a supplement of €2/£2.

Those customers that do not wish to pre-select their seats can check-in during the period from 7 days to 2 hours prior to their flight and they will be assigned an allocated seat at no cost. Free allocated seats will not be available prior to 7 days before each flight departure.

Ryanair’s Robin Kiely, said: ‘All Ryanair customers can now enjoy allocated seating on all flights, the latest customer service improvement to be rolled out.

We are listening to our customers and responding, so that they can continue to enjoy the lowest fares and most on-time flights, but can also benefit from our recent improvements to our industry leading customer service, including a second free small bag carry-on bag, easier website access, a ‘My Ryanair’ registration service, 24 hour grace periods, ‘quiet flights’ and reduced bag fees, with further improvements set to be rolled out over the coming weeks and months.’

Customers who have already purchased priority boarding for flights departing after February 1 can select a standard seat free of charge when checking-in online.

bmi regional to launch new Newcastle-Brussels flight

UK-based airline, bmi regional, is set to launch its new jet service to Brussels, which starts on March 3.

The new route from Newcastle Airport will connect North East travellers to Belgium when it begins in five weeks’ time, with fares from £76 per person one way. In addition to benefiting thousands of North East travellers heading to Belgium, the service is also expected to create a positive impact for the regional economy through inbound tourism.

Cathal O’Connell, CEO at bmi regional, said: ‘This is our first route from Newcastle International and we’re delighted to provide the only direct flight for travellers from the North East of England to the Belgian capital.

‘Brussels has so much to offer for leisure travellers such as a vibrant cultural offering and beautiful surroundings such as the Grand Place – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and traditional Flemish houses. As well as Brussels itself, travellers can make use of the excellent Belgian rail services running from Brussels Airport to reach Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp with ease.’

Dave Laws, chief executive at Newcastle International Airport, said: ‘The new route is already proving popular with both leisure and business passengers. Belgium is an interesting country to visit with much to see and do. There is far more to Belgium than just delicious chocolate and great beers.’

Sarah Stewart, chief executive of destination management and marketing agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said; ‘The growing number of airlines choosing Newcastle International Airport signals a real confidence both in the airport and the destination. bmi regional’s new Brussels flight is positive news for the tourism sector and the business community.

‘NewcastleGateshead and the wider region remains an attractive destination for city break visitors and those interested in doing business here. bmi regional’s new double daily service will gather a lot of support from businesses here in the North East and in Belgium.

‘It’s extremely encouraging to welcome a new airline and a brand new route that will continue growth in inbound tourism in NewcastleGateshead and the North East.’

bmi regional offers a full in-flight service including complimentary food and drinks on board, as well as allowing 20kg of checked baggage per person and 30 minute check-in at airports.

Heathrow tests new 3D technology to enable faster security check

London Heathrow is testing an innovative ‘glasses-free 3D’ technology that that is intended to help reduce the number of prohibited items placed in hand baggage, and therefore offer departing passengers a smooth journey through the UK’s only hub airport.

The airport is running a trial of the new technology in the departure security zone at Terminal 1. Large screens show 3D images of items that are not permitted through security, such as scissors, tweezers and liquids over 100ml.

Passengers are also shown how to dispose of the items in the recycling bins before putting their luggage through the scanner.

In the usual course, if banned items are identified during a scan the bag is rejected and has to be hand searched by a security officer. The new technology will reduce queues at security by cutting down on the number of bags that are rejected for manual search, and ensures that all passengers have a smoother journey.

The technology is provided by New York-based Exceptional 3D’s patented auto-stereoscopic 3D display technology. The trial was launched after being suggested by one of Heathrow’s security officers, Samit Saini. The trial will run for 8 weeks.

Richard Harding, head of IT innovation at Heathrow said: ‘Helping prepare passengers for security saves them time and reduces the chance of having their bag searched. 3D technology is the latest way to help get this message across. Once we’ve analysed the trial’s results we’ll decide whether to expand the technology to the rest of the airport.’

Matthew Young, managing director of Exceptional 3D Europe, added: ‘We’re very excited to be working with Heathrow Airport in an effort to make travelling an even smoother experience. As our business requires us to travel like many others in the world, we know and understand that there is a mild frustration when it comes to unexpected delays. It’s our expectation that this will not only improve the traveller experience but also help minimise delays at necessary and very critical stages of air travel.’

Thomson and First Choice offer romantic destinations for Valentine’s Day

UK-based holiday company, Thomson and First Choice, claims to have put together some of the best destinations for couples looking for the perfect romantic getaway this Valentine’s Day.

The locales are claimed to be the best spots to escape the cold and rain and celebrate Valentine’s Day abroad with sunshine, golden sandy beaches and peaceful settings. The destinations on offer include:

1. Thomson Couples, El Dorado Seaside Suites, Mexico

Thomson offers 14 night Couples holidays to Mexico, staying at the El Dorado Seaside Suites, by Karisma on an all-inclusive basis, from £1,719 per person. The price is based on two adults sharing, and includes flights departing from Gatwick airport on February 11, 2014.

Thomson says, Welcomed with a chilled glass of champagne, the stylish Travelife Gold awarded 5T El Dorado Seaside Suites offers a first class setting to ensure a relaxing and romantic Valentine’s getaway.

2. Couples Tower Isle, Jamaica

Thomson offers 14 night holidays to Jamaica, staying at the 5T Couples Tower Isle on an all-inclusive basis, from £2,160 per person. The price is based on two adults sharing, and includes flights departing from Manchester airport on February 13, 2014.

Thomson says, Located in beautiful settings surrounded by gardens dotted with palm trees, the Couples Tower Isle is perfect for a quiet and peaceful Valentine’s holiday. With a private sandy beach and adjacent swimming pools, the adults-only hotel is luxury at its finest.

3. Sensatori Tenerife

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Tenerife staying at the Travelife Gold awarded 5T+ Sensatori Tenerife on a full board basis, from £1,290 per person. The price is based on two adults sharing in the Red Level section, and includes flights departing from Birmingham airport on February 9, 2014.

Thomson says, Designed to fuel the senses, Sensatori features a modern design and is complete with a spa, sauna and steam room. For the more active couple, the hotel also offers a gym, as well as various sport and activity classes available, including tennis, archery, sushi making and wine tasting.

4. Ndogo Safari & Southern Palms, Kenya

For the more adventurous couple, First Choice offers safari tour and stay options; combining a three night safari in the breath-taking Tsavo East and West National Parks with an 11-night stay at the stunning Southern Palms Resort.

First Choice offers 14-night Tour & Stay holidays to Kenya, incorporating a three night Ndogo Safari with an 11-night stay at the 4Sun Southern Palms on an all-inclusive basis from £1,975 per person. The price is based on two adults sharing, and includes flights departing from Glasgow airport on 10th February 2014 and transfers.

5. Thomson Platinum Riu Tikida Palmeraie, Marrakech, Morocco

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Marrakech staying at the Travelife Gold awarded Platinum 4T+ Riu Tikida Palmeraie on an all-inclusive basis, from £465 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing, and includes flights departing from Gatwick airport on 10th February 2014.

Part of Thomson’s Platinum portfolio, the company says that the all-inclusive hotel, which looks like a traditional desert village, is in a peaceful location within easy reach of Marrakech. Excursions on offer include visits to the Garden of Marrakech, a beautiful home with manicured Gardens owned by international designer Yves Saint Laurent.

6. Thomson Chic and Unique Living Room Hotel, Goa

Thomson offers 14 night holidays to Goa staying at the 3T+ Living Room, on a bed and breakfast basis, from £899 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing, and includes flights departing from Manchester airport on 10th February 2014.

Thomson says, With its Buddha statues, water fountains and stylish interiors, the Living Room is a boutique hotel with a laid-back, bohemian edge. Thomson also offers some fantastic excursions in Goa showcasing what India really has to offer.

British Airways set to add fifth weekly UK-Tripoli flight

UK-based airline, British Airways, is introducing more choice for customers as it plans to increase its schedule of flights to Libya with a fifth weekly service from London to Tripoli starting February, the Libya Herald has reported.

The first Wednesday flight is scheduled for February 26, departing from London Heathrow at 9:20 am and arriving in Tripoli at 2:50 pm. The return flight leaves Tripoli International Airport at 3:50 pm and arrives in London at 5:40 pm.

‘The flights are scheduled on popular travel days for business customers, and arrive and depart at reasonable times, so they are able to make onward connections,’ said British Airways’ commercial manager for North Africa, Sarah Cain. She added that the extra service would offer customers greater convenience and flexibility.

‘Libya is a very important market for BA and we are very pleased with the strong demand we have seen for our Tripoli route, both inbound and outbound,’ Ms Cain reportedly said in November when the airline decided to keep its fourth weekly service between London and Tripoli over the winter season. ‘The increased frequency also gives more flexibility to the rising number of passengers we see flying into Libya, as interest in the North African markets continues to grow.’

Starting from February 26, British Airways will fly between London Heathrow and Tripoli International Airport on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets for the additional Wednesday flight are available with immediate effect.

North Africa is one of the markets that British Airways is presently focusing on. In addition to daily flights to Algeria and Egypt, and five flights a week to Tunisia, British Airways has increased its flights to Marrakech, in Morocco, from daily to 10 per week.